This incredible profile on early “Simpsons” head writer George Meyer is something I’ll probably quote once a year forever.
Humor, for Meyer, became the key to emotional survival. His sister Ann — who is married to Jon Vitti —once said to me, “People sometimes ask me why all the kids in our family have a sense of humor, and I just think it was that or die. The choices were very limited. For George, it was an extremely hard task to be the eldest in a group of eight, and the fact that he was incredibly intelligent made it even harder for him. The rest of us were all a little afraid of him, because he was older, but he took care of us and we looked up to him, and he really made us laugh. He used to dislike the show All in the Family,’ partly because he could see the jokes coming a mile away.
There was one episode where Archie is tempted to have an affair with a waitress, and then Edith finds a piece of paper with the waitress’s phone number written on it and asks him, in this trembling voice, Archie, whose phone number is this?’ We all used to repeat that line, and George would crack us up by screeching it, in this quavering imitation of Jean Stapleton’s voice. At Thanksgiving dinner one year, my mother made us all write down what we were thankful for, and three of us, completely independently, wrote Archie, whose phone number is this?’ My mother was exasperated, because she was reading these things aloud. Meanwhile, we were all laughing so hard that we were crying.”